9285 ft (2830 m) – 1775 ft gain
I had planned to get out early for Second Friday, but because my brother, Darren, could not join this weekend and my back had spasmed oddly yesterday, I slept late. The schedule had changed anyway. I now planned to meet colleagues in Owens Valley for a drone mapping project in the Inyo Mountains, so my journey into the Palmetto Mountains and their high point of Harvey Peak is a prelude to that.
I take the ‘fast’ route to Fish Lake Valley, through Yerington and Hawthorne, then around the Candelaria bypass. The length-wise traverse of Fish Lake Valley, below Boundary Peak (Nevada’s highest summit) and the White Mountains of California, is always longer than I remember, and I was just through here on my way to the Spring Mountains a month ago. I am pulling the trailer, and not looking to camp in the Palmettos, I stash it in a turnout along the two-lane highway. The rig now works its way through straggled mining camps, Harvey Peak rising in the northeast. I am running out of daylight, but it is a perfect day otherwise – clear and bright, not so perfect for landscape photography, of course.
The Garmin map is inaccurate, so foregoing the indicated road, I take a good turn that I soon think is a wrong turn, back out and turn around, go further east. That is no good. I go back to find my original instinct was correct and continue up-fan, parking below steep slopes. There are clearly roads to the top, but I always want to be at least 1.5 miles from and 1500 feet below from a summit, even if I could drive the entire route. That is no way to experience a mountain.
I begin in a thick band of pinyon, a broad apron on the slopes of the Palmettos – the range’s name comes from a slightly inaccurate description of the region’s Joshua Trees, a few of which gather on slopes to the south. The sun is fading as I make open slopes near a bumpy ridgeline that wanders up-and-down as it climbs to a rocky summit. Groves of Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany shelter in alcoves and indented swales in the hillslopes. Two beautiful mule deer exit as I enter a protected grove that had drawn my attention. I have exposed their hideaway.
I regretted my trespass as I turned around an outcrop to find a pair of trucks and several pedestrian hunters scouting the ridge, looking in scopes, or, in one case, sleeping in a truck cab. The sleeper’s truck was not parked on a road but looked as if it had just rolled to a stop like any other local, slope-stalled boulder. I crept past the slumbering man and approached the several other scouts, impressed that all their scopes were pointing in directions other than that of the tip-toeing deer I had so recently flushed. My secret seems safe as I say hello and, heavily out-gunned, wave shyly, the oddity of a camera-toting hiker strolling out of the blue hour.
There are two hunters and a Toyota from Tonopah at the summit register. I have not had company like this on a summit since the summit of Mount Rose, the beautiful dog-route above Reno. We chat about other hills and I get info on a good route on Lone Mountain to the northeast. I can see Montezuma Peak above Clayton Valley, and Lone Mountain just beyond is a future goal.
I head down into the dark, but I am soon followed by the truck, which seems to be picking up all the other hunters. I leave the track to follow game trails, night closing in around me. Bats flicker among the pinyon as an ATV intercepts me just above my truck. “Wow, you’re getting in the mileage.” Maybe. My watch just turned over 5.0, and I could probably seem my rig if it were light.
The photography was uninspired as I was made inattentive by all the activity along the ridge. I enjoyed the walk, noticing that my back muscles, freed from the desk and chair, had warmed to the walk and I drove into the night painfree. I camped at an artesian well on a broad alluvial fan on the Nevada-California border, ready for a short expedition into the Inyo Mountains.